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A man wearing a hat sitting next to a person holding a phone with music lyrics on. A man wearing a hat sitting next to a person holding a phone with music lyrics on.

What are songwriter splits?

4 min read

Why agreeing on songwriter splits is so important

Simply, a split is each songwriter's share of the rights and royalties in a musical work.

Note, that the described here are specific to and not . You can find more information about sound recording splits in the Recording topic.   

When there is more than one working in collaboration, it’s vital to agree on songwriter splits as early as possible.

A quick note on terminology 

The terms splits and are often used throughout the music industry to talk about how to divide both the in a between different and the for the use of a musical work between different , who may or may not be authors of the work. We generally use the term splits to cover both uses, but the practice may vary in different contexts and markets.

What are songwriter splits?

Each creator who makes an contribution to the musical work is a songwriter and, under , is called an author and can own a share of its rights. You can learn more about and in the Music Creators’ Rights topic.

Songwriter splits are how the ownership of rights, and therefore the and , of a musical work are divided in percentages. A musical work equals 100 percent; therefore, all contributing songwriters need to split the 100 percent between them. For example, four songwriters creating a new musical work that are splitting equally might agree on getting 25 percent of the copyright ownership of the musical work.

Example of a 4-way songwriter split in which each songwriter receives 25 percent of the copyright ownership of the musical work.

Note: Splits do not have to be equal, subject to negotiation.

The copyright of musical works consists of several rights. Commercially, the most important are and of a musical work. You can learn more about these rights in the Music Creators’ Rights topic.

The mechanical and performing rights in a musical work can be split differently and earn royalties in different ways. You can learn more about royalties in the Getting Credited and Paid topic.

Often, songwriters agree to split the rights fifty-fifty between and . However, this can change depending on each musical work, country of origin, genre, or number of contributors involved in creating it. There is no standard guideline for what percentage split a songwriter or other rights holder might get, though often have default rules, sometimes set by law. These rules differ from one country to another, but in some countries, for example, they limit the share a can have of a musical work.

Example of copyright ownership split 50/50 between composition and lyrics. Note: Splits do not have to be equal, subject to negotiation

If splits cannot be agreed, CMOs can help, and there are also , and services that are available to the parties, or as a last resort, splits can be decided by a .

Visit our Resolving Disputes topic to learn more. 

Why agreeing on songwriter splits early is so important 

Songwriters collaborating on a musical work should always agree on the as early as possible and always before commercially releasing the , which means the recording and distribution of the musical work. If splits aren't agreed upon and properly documented when the musical work is with a CMO, none of the songwriters will be able to be paid whenever their musical work is used, such as on streaming platforms, radio, or TV stations, bars, restaurants, clubs, etc. It also helps to avoid unnecessary and often costly legal disputes about who owns what share of the rights.

Agreeing and properly documenting songwriter splits is essential for getting the musical work , the , which is required for crediting, tracking, and paying your income.

To learn more about the steps needed to get properly credited and paid, visit the topic on Registering Musical Works.

Further Reading 

You can also learn more about CMOs on our Collective Management Organizations page. For more specific information about splits and royalty shares in your country, contact your local CMO.

Image credit: Nils Emil Nylander